The Urgency of Shade Coffee

These are scary times. My generation was the first to be born with the absolute knowledge that nuclear weapons could erase human civilization from the face of the earth. Then, over the last decade or so, we´ve come to understand and even feel in our bones that climate catastrophe might also threaten our existence. Before that knowing, that fear, began maybe we could muddle along in our innocence, imagining that things would work out for the best. Now, though, all those bets are off. The evidence is in: coffee is one of the agricultural products already suffering the effects of a warmer world. Farms are moving uphill to higher altitudes, always one step slower than the fungal diseases and insect infestations that make growing great coffee that much harder. With some friends, we´ve formed an alliance high up in a privileged valley. We restore land, turning low-carbon, degraded cattle pastures, once hacked out of the hugely biodiverse cloudforest into high-carbon, forested habitat perfect for shade coffee. Maybe before we awakened to our responsibility to address climate change, we thought conservation was enough. Now, and with every new day, we know that it´s time to pass from nature conservation to nature restoration if we want to stand a chance. Now, in 2017, we are adding a new plantation area to the Cloud Forest Coffee Farms Alliance, this time at the private nature reserve, Alambi, named for the Alambi river which flows at the lower edge of the property. We aim to remake the grassy bits, the stripped land, into agro-forestry shade coffee like we´ve done at the Tambo Quinde nature reserve and elsewhere. With our commercial partners, Tiny Footprint Coffee in the USA and Aekvator Kaffe in Denmark, we invite you to accompany us on this journey. In a series of articles over the course of this year, we will document what we are doing and give you the opportunity to enjoy the coffee and contribute to our efforts. Sure, in a dozen hectares of coffee we are not going to change the world, but we are not alone. There are many different farming approaches in many countries. Taken as a whole, returning carbon to the soil represents a powerful tool for CO2 mitigation and – enough doom and gloom – we’re also having some fun along the way.